Rainn Wilson Narrating New Dr. Seuss Book

If you thought Harper Lee was the only classic author releasing a new book this summer, you thought wrong. A posthumous Dr. Seuss book is also out now.

According to Inquisitr, actor and comedian Rainn Wilson is narrating the audio version of the new book, What Pet Should I Get?, which came out earlier this week. Dr. Seuss’s widow, Audrey Geisel, found the book’s manuscripts and drawings for the book two years ago, but estimates he worked on it sometime between 1958 and 1962.

This is not the first of Dr. Seuss’ books to be released posthumously. Reviews have stated that the new book doesn’t have any particular message or lesson that it’s trying to get across.

Get What Pet Should I Get? in hardcover for $10.09.

Or on your Kindle for $9.59.

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Review: The Storyteller

Recap: Sage Singer is perfectly content with her sad, lonely life. Well, “perfectly content” may not have been the right phrase to use. That said, she’s comfortable, working overnights at a bakery, keeping distant from her sisters since their parents died, and sleeping with a man who has a wife and family. But everything changes with Sage meets Josef Weber. He’s not a new love interest. He’s a 90-year-old retiree who lives in her small Rhode Island town and lets Sage in on a secret. He tells her he’s a former Nazi and wants Sage, a Jewish girl, to kill him and end his guilty suffering.

In typical Jodi Picoult controversial-story-content fashion, Sage must decide what to do — whether to assist suicide this reformed Nazi or whether to let him continue his suffering until he eventually dies. As she struggles with the decision, she reaches out to the Department of Justice. Leo is the agent set on helping her uncover Josef’s secrets and prosecute him. In order to do that, she needs the help of a Holocaust survivor. Luckily, Sage’s grandmother, Minka, is such a woman. Minka shares her horrific story in the hopes that it will be enough to convict Josef for all his wrongdoings. But along with the detail-oriented investigation and research lies another issue — time. Will Sage, her grandmother and Leo be able to pull this all together before Josef dies of regular old age?

Analysis: Jodi Picoult does it again — choosing a controversial issue about which to write and finding a way to develop emotionally complex characters. She sticks to the same format as her other books, switching between narrators each chapter. I like that format. It works for her books because it allows the reader to better understand the different sides of each controversial topic. But in The Storyteller, things became muddled in the middle.

The grandmother’s section about her experience in the Holocaust was long and gruesome. It was powerful, and maybe that’s why she chose not to have another character break up the section. But It was so emotionally difficult for me to get through, it would have been nice to have had another characters’ thoughts interspersed there.

The novel was so great, the story so powerful, the pain so excruciating, and then there was the ending. The end was a bit of a shock, but not enough to leave me breathless. It was not as satisfying as it could have been. After all Picoult did to build those characters, all I could do at the end was shrug. And that was disappointing.

MVP: Sage is a mess at the start of the novel. But by the end, she gets it together in the most unlikely of ways. She proves her strength, finds her undiscovered confidence and voice, and she finally does something. Her growth was wonderful to follow.

Get The Storyteller in paperback for $8.51.

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Another Slew of Celebrity Memoirs

It happens every few years now — or really, maybe every few months — that a slew of young celebrities write and publish memoirs. In recent memory, those published by female comics have been the most successful. (Think: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling.) But in the coming year, the waters will be tested by actresses, singers, and writers who are all set to release memoirs.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Glee star Naya Rivera is set to release a memoir, entitled Sorry, Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes and Growing Up. Hers will detail her career ups and downs as well as her time spent on the popular Fox TV show, Glee, which ended its run earlier this year. Rivera’s book is set to be released next spring.

Entertainment Weekly also reports actress Gabourey Sidibe, best known for her turn in the Oscar-winning film Precious and the new Fox TV show Empire, is also working on a memoir. Hers is due out in 2017.

We can expect yet another memoir from singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, according to Entertainment Weekly. Hers will be a book of essays, detailing her life and the stories behind many of her songs. Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song is set to be released October 6th of this year.

Finally, Variety reports TV show creator/writer/producer Shonda Rhimes will also be releasing a memoir sometime this year. No release date has been announced, but Rhimes says hers will focus on how she’s managed her career as a single mother.

Now here’s the thing about memoirs. While I’m fascinated by young celebrities, I don’t usually feel that their life experiences warrant a decent memoir. So I’m hesitant to read Rivera’s or Sidibe’s. Wait until you’re old! Wait until you have more to talk about!

Sara Bareilles gets a pass because an explanation of songs is always fun. But more importantly, I expect more from her and Shonda Rhimes because they’re professional writers. The reason Fey, Poehler, Dunham and Kaling have all had successful books isn’t just because they’re funny females; it’s because they’re skilled at writing. A memoir is just a sidestep away from a TV or movie script.

I guess we’ll see how my predictions of more success with Rhimes and Bareilles’ memoirs hold up…

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Review: Then Again

Recap: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Diane Keaton is one of the most iconic actresses of the last 50 years. She set the bar high in Annie Hall and The Godfather and has continued to make great movies in her later years, including The First Wives Club and Something’s Gotta Give. So when I decided to read her memoir, I couldn’t wait to read about her experiences in those films. As a reader, I got glimpses into those moments — like the smallest bit of acknowledgment she received from Marlon Brando and her relationships with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino. But it wasn’t enough.

As the book went on, it became clear that writing this memoir must have been a cathartic experience for Keaton, who wrote a lot about the loss of her parents to cancer and Alzheimer’s and the adoption of her children at the age of 50. Don’t get me wrong; the way she writes about her family is beautiful and descriptive. (By the end I knew the names of all her siblings.) But it wasn’t what I expected or necessarily wanted to learn more about in the memoir.

Analysis: Keaton’s nonchalance about her acting and career comes off as modest, which is mostly cute and refreshing, if not slightly self-depracating. While I can understand her disbelief over making it to where she is, it’s still hard for me to believe at this point that she doesn’t think she’s a great actress. Maybe if she had included more about her acting experiences, I would better understand how she feels about them and how she sees herself.

That said, there is something to be said about the interesting format in which she chose to tell her story. She includes entries from her mother’s journal, letters written between her mother and herself, and letters she has begun to write to her own children. At times the format is confusing. It’s difficult to keep up with whose voice we’re reading from — hers or her mother’s. But as annoying as it is to hear so much from her mother’s point of view, it does help to further explore and explain Keaton’s upbringing and her relationship with her mother.

Get Then Again in paperback for $13.51.

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Latest ‘Fifty Shades’ Novel, ‘Grey,’ Released, Already a Bestseller

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.49.53 AMHappy birthday, Christian Grey! And happy day to fans of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, who already got their hands on the latest novel in the series, GreyThe novel was released today, in honor of the main character Christian Grey’s birthday.

But before the clock struck midnight, Grey was already a bestseller. According to Entertainment Weekly, preorders helped it shoot to the top of the Barnes and Noble and Amazon bestseller lists.

But just because it’s a bestseller doesn’t necessarily mean the book is that great — as we all know. While the prose of E L James has been criticized in the past, it seems her writing hasn’t gotten much better this time around, according to the tweets copied on US Weekly.

So will you be reading it?

Get Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian in paperback for $9.89.

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Review: A Letter To My Mom

Recap: From those who brought you A Letter To My Cat and A Letter To My Dog now comes A Letter To My Mom. I have not read Cat or Dog, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the latest in the series, A Letter To My Mom, is probably the best. Just in time for Mother’s Day, the book is a compilation of letters written by men and women — both young and old, famous and not — to their mothers.

Some letters are funny, like the one penned by singer Josh Groban. Some are sentimental, particularly the few letters written to deceased mothers, in which the children say all the things they never got to say when their mothers were still alive. Others tell stories, and a few just give thanks. But they are all full of feels. This compilation made me want to do nothing more than a write a letter to my own mother, thanking her for being so wonderful and telling her how much I respect and appreciate her, even when it seems like I don’t. There were several letters like that, too — ones that were more apologies than anything else.

Some of the letters told hard-to-believe stories of courage — like the mother who saved her children from her abusive husband by moving out in the middle of the night or the mother who threw herself in front of a car to save her children’s life, and wound up paralyzing herself. There are some sweet stories too, like the story of the mother who started a cupcake shop with her daughter. All of them great, all of them meaningful, all of them interesting to read.

Analysis: You don’t always think about the impact your mother has had on your life. On birthdays and Mother’s Day, yes, but other than that, it doesn’t come up much. Reading this book had me thinking about my mother constantly, all that she’s done for me, how much she cares, how strong she is. A good book forces you to reflect on your own life and think about its deeper meanings. This book does exactly that.

And I loved that the letters came from all people of all different walks of life. In the back were short biographies of each letter’s writer, a who’s who of talented celebrities and non-celebrities. Many of them were excellent writers, which surprised me until I realized most of them are writers, bloggers, or freelancers for a living. At first, I thought it was biased to select mostly writers’ letters in this book. But I then decided it was wise. It takes a good writer to put what their feeling into words and a great writer to go as deeply personal as one must do when writing about mothers. This is the perfect gift for any mother, and a must-read for everyone else.

Get A Letter to My Mom in hardcover for $16.19.

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Miniseries vs. Book: The Casual Vacancy

Upon finally getting around to reading The Casual Vacancy (aka the first book J.K. Rowling wrote after the Harry Potter series ended), I had so many thoughts and feelings. Primarily: this book is a lot better than I expected it to be, based on what I’d heard and the criticism I’d read. Also: I can’t wait to see how this is adapted for the screen in the BBC miniseries of the same name.

The story revolves around the residents of a small British village called Pagford. Barry Fairbrother, a member of the village’s council, is a friend to everyone and a general do-gooder. But when he suddenly, tragically dies, the casual vacancy on the council becomes a not-so-casual vacancy for the rest of town.

With each section of the book, more and more characters unravel as Howard and Shirley Mollison’s son, Miles, prepares to run for Fairbrother’s seat — as well as Simon Price and Colin Wall. But each person running has their own secrets — secrets which are subsequently spilled online, posted anonymously by their very own children, who happen to despise them.

There are far too many characters to name, too many relationships to get into and too many domino-effect casualties to mention. But I enjoyed it. As she did in the Harry Potter novels, Rowling continued her theme of children vs. adults (and the children generally winning). Plus, the interconnectedness of the characters reminded me of other stories that stem from the British mainland (Love Actually, anyone?). In the end, the best characters were crushed.

A lot was changed for the TV adaptation. Those who disliked the book will likely tell you the series was far superior. Those who were fans of the book will tell you the series was awful. I’m here to tell you the series wasn’t awful but it was far less grim than the novel.

The novel is dark and twisty, much like the end of the Harry Potter series. I thought each character was an awful person, and the end was truly tragic and morbid. That, I believe, is the reason that producers made the series less severe. Of the two deaths at the end of the novel, only one dies in the show. I suppose all that death would have been too much for the average viewer.

Most of the other changes were due to time restrictions, I’m sure. The series was three hours, but certainly could have used a fourth. I was upset that one of the book’s characters was left out entirely and that some of the big “meeting” and “party” scenes were combined. The series also added extra relationships between characters. For example, Barry Fairbrother was an uncle to some of the kids in the show and a half-brother to another character. These relationships were never established in the book.

On some level, both the series and novel may seem as though they have no “point.” But it seems to me that any vacancy is anything but casual, and that’s what should keep readers and viewers on their toes.

Get The Casual Vacancy in paperback for $14.23.

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